DANIEL Ayala has become Aitor Karanka’s first permanent signing as Middlesbrough boss.
The Spanish central defender has joined Boro from Norwich City for an undisclosed fee and has agreed a three-and-a-half-year contract at the Riverside.
Ayala’s 93-day emergency loan from the Canaries expired earlier this week and the Boro head coach said he was desperate to extend his stay.
Karanka moved quickly to agree a deal with the Premier League club and he is eligible to play against Sky Bet Championship leaders Leicester at the King Power Stadium this afternoon.
Ayala has made 12 starts and one substitute appearance for Boro, scoring three goals, the highlight a towering header on his debut in the 4-0 win over Doncaster Rovers at the Riverside.
Further strikes have followed against Watford and Birmingham City, but it has been his defensive skills which have impressed Karanka.
“I know how important Danny is for the team,” the former Real Madrid man said.
Ayala began his career with Boro’s UEFA Cup conquerors Sevilla before Rafael Benitez signed him for Liverpool in 2007.
The 23-year-old made five Premier League appearances for the Anfield club and, after successful loan spells with Hull City and Derby County, joined the Canaries in August 2011, signing a four-year deal.
Standing 6ft 3in, Ayala, who has one Spain U-21 cap, spent the 2012-13 season on loan with Nottingham Forest.